According to the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory, divorce is the second most stressful life event that can happen to you. Of course, if you’re going through a divorce, you don’t need Drs. Holmes or Rahe to tell you how stressed out you feel. The truth is, you’re much more interested in how to deal with stress than you are with figuring out the precise level of stress you’re under.
What’s Your Definition of Stress?
Like it or not, dealing with stress is a normal part of our modern life. Yet, what people define as being stressful can vary widely.
Some people define stress as being stuck in traffic.
Others define stress as getting diagnosed with a terminal illness or being so overloaded with work they can barely breathe.
One of the most widely accepted definitions of stress is,
…. a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that ‘demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
In other words, when you feel like you’re out of control, you feel stressed.
When you’re going through a divorce, you feel like you’re out of control most of the time. It’s not surprising, then, that your stress level is usually off the charts.
Effects of Stress on the Body
When you experience something that you perceive to be stressful, your body reacts in a very specific way.
Your heart rate rises and your breath gets shallow and quick. Your brain sends out a battalion of stress hormones designed to help your body deal with the threat at hand. In short, your body gets ready to fight or to run.
Here’s the problem.
The fight or flight response is supposed to be a temporary biological state.
It works wonderfully well when you’re staring down a grizzly bear in the forest. But grizzly bears don’t normally stick around forever. Assuming they haven’t already mauled you, eventually they get bored and move on. When they do your body can relax.
In our crazy, amped-up modern world, though, all the things that cause you stress don’t just magically walk away like a grizzly bear into the forest. On the contrary, your life stressors these days tend to pitch a tent, and camp out inside your brain and your body.
Sometimes, they don’t just pitch a tent. They build a whole building.
When they do, your body gets stuck in a stressful state. You either can’t sleep at all or all you want to do is sleep. Either you eat too much or you eat too little. You get irritable, nervous and you can’t think straight.
Being in this state of chronic stress can create serious health issues.
Heart disease, headaches, obesity, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and a host of autoimmune disorders like thyroid diseases, lupus and multiple sclerosis are all stress related.
While stress may not be the only cause of these illnesses, it definitely can make them all worse.
How to Deal with Stress During Divorce
What most people don’t realize about divorce is that it is a process, not an event.
What that means is that divorce isn’t something that you do in a day – or a week, or a month. Often you can’t even get it done in a year.
Going through a divorce takes time. During that time, you experience stress at a level you may have never experienced it before … and it just keeps pelting you like ice pellets in a hail storm.
The key to knowing how to deal with stress – especially divorce stress – in a productive way is to start by identifying what is causing your stress.
There’s a big difference between being stressed out because your attorney won’t return your phone calls, and being worried about sending your pre-school kids to spend an entire unsupervised week with your spouse who has an undiagnosed drug or alcohol problem. Both situations may be stressful. But the second one takes your stress to a whole new level.
To start to figure out the exact cause of your stress in any given moment, you have to take some time to notice what’s making you crazy.
When you find yourself with your fists balled up, your teeth clenched and you have an overwhelming urge to punch someone, stop for a moment and ask yourself: Why?
Why am I feeling the way that I am?
What triggered me to feel this way?
Once you become aware of what’s setting you off, you’ll have a better chance of dealing with it.
Top 5 Causes of Divorce Stress and How to Deal With Them
1. Loss of Control.
This one is HUGE! When you start going through a divorce, you lose control of so many things!
Suddenly you have no control over your spouse. You only have limited control over your finances, and you have zero control over the divorce process.
What’s more, it’s not unusual for kids to act out during a divorce, too. So you probably feel like you have no control over them either.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to be in control of everything all the time, going through a divorce will stress you out big time!.
How to Deal With Stress Due to Loss of Control
Step One: Figure out what you can control. (Yes, there still ARE things you can control!)
For example, you can control your attitude. You can control what you do and what you say.
Then figure out what is beyond your control. This category will probably be much bigger.
You can’t control the divorce process, the court system, or your lawyer. You can’t control how long your divorce takes or how much it costs. (Of course, you can AFFECT all of those things. But if you think you can control any of them, you’re lying to yourself.)
Step Two: Control what you can. Even when regaining control seems hopeless, there are still things you can control.
Start small. Take one day at a time. Control one thing at a time. Notice when you make progress – however small it may be. Give yourself credit for every little thing you do control. Celebrate your success.
While you’re doing that, do your best to let go of what you can’t control. (I know. It’s not easy!) But the truth is, if you can’t control something, there getting yourself in a twist about what you can’t control is useless. It doesn’t help, and it won’t change anything.
2. Uncertainty About the Future.
Being stressed out about what’s going to happen after your divorce is over may seem natural. But, it’s just about as productive as worrying about what you can’t control.
Of course, when you’re going through a divorce you can’t help but wonder: “What if I can’t find a job?,” or “What if I lose all my friends?”
Or, you may have concerns about your kids, like, “What if my kids end up being a mess?”
At every turn, in every situation, you keep asking yourself, “What if …,” “What if…”.
The problem with asking “What if…” is that there is no answer. Ever.
You won’t know what will happen until it does. In the meantime, the best way to deal with all of your “What if’s?” is to make a plan.
How to Deal With Stress Due to Uncertainty About Your Future
Write down what you are worried about. Then brainstorm your options for dealing with that situation.
If you can’t come up with any options, then get help. Ask a friend. Ask a divorce professional. Do your best to come up with at least two or three things you could do to help make sure that whatever you are worried about won’t happen.
You can also brainstorm options for what you can do if what you are worried about actually does happen.
For example, if you are worried that you will have to sell your home after the divorce, talk to a realtor. Find out what your home is worth. Talk to a mortgage broker. Get the information you need to figure out whether you can really keep your house or not. That way, you’ll have a better idea about whether you can afford to keep your house or not.
Of course, making a plan may not change your situation. But it will give you ideas about how to deal with it. Doing just that much often eliminates a lot of the stress.
3. Financial Insecurity.
Divorce usually causes tremendous financial changes in your entire family’s life. Those changes can easily trigger your deepest, darkest fears.
What will you do if you don’t have enough money to pay the bills?
Where will you live? How will you eat?
Fears about money – specifically not having enough money – trigger your survival instincts in a primal way.
The biggest problem with money worries in divorce is that, many of your worst fears may actually come true. You may have to downsize your lifestyle and pinch pennies for a while after your divorce.
At the same time, even though financial worries can be very serious and very real, they are rarely as dire as they seem to be when they’re spinning around in your head at two o’clock in the morning.
The key to dealing with financial worries is to take control of your financial future as soon as you possibly can.
How to Deal With Stress Due to Financial Insecurity
Step One: Make a budget.
See how much money you are bringing in and paying out right now. Then make a post-divorce budget so that you can see how much money you will be bringing in and paying out after you are divorced.
If you there is a gap between money in and money out, you will see it. Then you can start to deal with it.
Step Two: Get help.
Talk to a financial planner, or an accountant. Talk to your lawyer. Figure out what your options are.
Are you going to need to get a better job? Are you going to need to cut expenses? You need to know these things.
You may not be able to fix your financial situation immediately, but at least you can set yourself out on the best course possible.
4. Concerns About Your Kids.
Nothing is more agonizing then watching your children’s lives change because of your divorce. It’s even worse when your soon-to-be-ex starts parenting in a way that makes your blood boil.
Maybe your soon-to-be-ex has turned into the “Disney Dad” and is lavishing your kids with expensive gifts that you can’t afford. Even though you know he is trying to buy your kids’ love, you can’t help but worry that it will work and you’ll become the parent the kids hate.
Of maybe your soon-to-be-ex is badmouthing you to your kids. Maybe she told your teenagers about your affair and now they don’t want to see you anymore. You’re afraid that your relationships with your kids will never be the same, and that they may never want to see you again.
All of these issues, and a thousand more, can be very real consequences of your divorce. Nonetheless, stressing out over them won’t change them at all.
How to Deal With Stress Due to Concerns About Your Kids
Step One: Don’t fight with your spouse!
Conflict, more than anything else, hurts children. Do your best not to argue with your spouse about the children, or in front of the children. (I know, that’s not always possible. Try anyway.)
If there is any way that you can bite your tongue and maintain a civil relationship with your soon-to-be-ex for the sake of your kids: do it!
Step Two: Pay extra attention to your kids right now.
Spend as much extra time with your kids as possible. Ask them their opinion and listen to what they have to say. Depending on their age, they may or may not be able or willing to voice their opinion to you.
You also want to pay attention to what they do. Sometimes kids will say one thing, but do another. If you see that happening to your kids, know that what they DO is often a better clue about what’s going on with them than what they SAY.
Step Three: Get help.
Talk to your children’s teachers and school counselors. Let them know what is going on and have them alert you to any changes in your children’s behavior.
If your child starts acting out, don’t come down too hard on them. Talk to them. Listen to them. If their behavior gets too bad, or they seem to be anxious or depressed, get them a therapist. Getting a little professional help to get your kids through this tough time can go a long way in helping make their lives a little less miserable right now. (Although you also should know that your kids may not see it that way at first. They may not want to go to a therapist. But, as the parent, that may be the best call you can make for them.)
5. Grief and Loss.
Divorce is a loss – a BIG loss. It doesn’t matter whether you were the one who wanted to get a divorce, or you were blind-sided when your spouse hit you with the news.
Ending a marriage hurts like crazy. It is a loss. You have to let yourself grieve.
How to Deal With Stress Due to Grief and Loss
Step One: Let Yourself Grieve
When we’re mired in the pain of a relationship that’s ending, all we want is relief. We want to spend a day without crying. We want to feel good again.
It’s tempting to want to push the pain aside without ever really dealing with it.
Some people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol or food. Others dive further into their work, and become “too busy” to feel, too busy to grieve.
Unfortunately, until you allow yourself to feel your feelings, you can never work through them. Not giving yourself time to grieve doesn’t resolve your pain. It just buries it.
Step Two: Take care of yourself.
Taking care of your physical body won’t magically make your grief go away. But it will make you feel better. And just feeling better physically can help improve your mood and reduce your stress.
The basics of self-care aren’t hard to figure out. Eat right. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Try to get enough sleep.
Taking care of yourself also means taking care of your emotions, too. Start doing things that you enjoy. Go dancing. Play basketball. Ride a motorcycle. Read a book. Learn meditation.
You don’t need a reason to do what you love. Doing it because you love it is enough.
Step Three: Get help.
This is not the time to be a hero. You don’t need to go through your divorce alone, nor should you.
Get a good therapist. Join a divorce support group. Assemble a list of friends who you can count on to listen to you and help you get back on your feet.
Whatever you do, don’t try to do everything yourself.
8 Other Tips for How to Deal With Stress During Divorce
In addition to taking the steps listed above, there are also a number of things you can do to reduce your stress in general.
Here are some of the best stress relievers you can try.
The way you breathe has a dramatic effect on your physiology. You can use your breathe to calm you down, or psych you up. To reduce stress, try “box breathing.” Breathe in for 5 counts. Hold for 5 counts. Breathe out for 5 counts. Repeat. Feel yourself relax.
Exercise isn’t just important for your physical health. It’s also important for your emotional and mental health too. Exercise reduces fatigue, improves cognitive function, and helps you sleep better. All of those lead to less stress, and an overall sense of well-being.
Eating to reduces stress includes more than simply eating a healthy diet (although that’s a part of it, too!). Eating these foods is thought to reduce your stress level:
- Green Tea
- Tuna Fish
4.Drink Plenty of Water.
According to research, dehydration increases the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body. Staying properly will help keep your body in balance and reduce the amount of stress you feel.
5.Use essential oils.
Studies have shown that inhaling certain scents can lower your perceived stress levels and improve the quality of your sleep. Lavender, Ylang-ylang, bergamot, chamomile, vetiver and rose essential oils can all help relieve stress.
Studies have proven that meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. There are many different types of meditation. Practicing any of them will give you an increased sense of calm, peace and balance.
Getting a good night’s sleep is hard when you’re all stressed out. The irony of that is that sleeping actually reduces your stress hormones. It brings oxygen and blood to your tissues and helps your whole body relax. If you’re too stressed out to sleep, use some of the other tips here to relax you first. Then set aside plenty of time to sleep, and practice good sleep habits. With practice, you’ll soon be getting the rest you need. (You can also check out these sleep tips from health professionals.)
8.Walk in Nature.
Human beings evolved outside. Being in nature can help reduce stress, and relieve anxiety. It can make you feel calm and balanced. What’s more, brain research has shown that a walk in the park literally changes our brains in a way that affects our mental health.
Another thing that can really stress you out during divorce is not knowing what you’re doing. CLICK THE BUTTON below and get your FREE DIVORCE CHECKLIST to make sure you don’t miss a thing!